Faithful International Partnering – Proceeding Carefully and Intentionally

Here’s an important reminder as the new ‘church year’ begins for many of our congregations.

International engagement is important ministry, and more transformative when its collaborative.  Our organizations look forward to supporting your hopes and dreams.  And, we urge you to be thoughtful and careful even in the midst of exciting opportunities.

A Memo: Connecting with Unitarians and UU’s Around the World, CAREFULLY

To: UUA Ministers and Religious Leaders

From:  Eric Cherry, UUA International Office
Cathy Cordes, UU Partner Church Council
Jill McAllister and Steve Dick, International Council of Unitarians and Universalists

Date: September 14, 2012

Dear Friends,

It is so exciting to see the many ways that our UU faith is connecting around the world – so many congregations and ministers are now making a variety of international connections! We are thrilled that UUA churches and individuals are looking beyond their own doors and even beyond their own geographic communities and connecting. The UUA, ICUU, the UUPCC and other organizations stand ready to support your outreach in a variety of ways. We invite you to contact us at any point where we can be helpful. We are writing today to offer some advice based on our joint experience working with UUs here and in other countries.

Much of this new activity is aided with new communication tools that make contact easier and keeping in touch possible. Social media programs such as Skype and Facebook make it easy to learn of possibilities and to meet people over the internet.

Our UU global community is growing both bigger and smaller! Bigger in the sense that people around the world continue to discover our liberal tradition and establish it in their own countries and regions, and smaller in the sense that it is so easy to connect with each other around the world. This gives us reason to both celebrate and pay close attention, for there are good ways to connect, not-so-good ways to connect, and ways to connect which can cause huge problems.

BE VERY CAREFUL when making connections via Facebook and other social media. Before you respond to a Facebook request from someone claiming to be a UU, or a UU minister, contact one of the offices or organizations listed below which specializes in international UU connections, to get more information! Social media enables one to present information in ways that may not be false but also may not be a complete description of reality. (Anyone can take a picture of themselves with a stole on, or lighting a chalice.) Be careful not to assume that you’ve been contacted because you are special, or especially knowledgeable or gifted or whatever. In general, this kind of “Facebooking” is a process of “blanketing” a target audience, or of fishing, hoping to get someone to bite. Do not consider the list of other colleagues who may be listed as friends as references for or as an endorsement of the person. Many of us respond casually to friend requests without verifying or confirming information about a prospective friend.

FIRST, FIND OUT MORE before you proceed. Definitely consult with one of the following:
The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU)
The UUA International Resources Office
The UU Partner Church Council

BE ESPECIALLY CAREFUL ABOUT MONEY Don’t send money unless you have some history of relationship and interactions. We suggest not sending money to any individual, group or organization that is not part of some kind of judicatory or governance structure. You can find this out from one of the organizations listed above. Unless you are working with a group or organization in which there is some kind of shared leadership and decision-making, your support and gifts are almost certainly going to lead to triangulating folks in these countries, and may even stimulate real conflict. (This has happened more than once.) It may be possible to send funds through one of the UU international organizations or to help support existing or new projects sponsored by these organizations. Contact us for information about such possibilities.

LEARN MORE! International relations among U-U’s around the world are more than 100 years old. The UUA, ICUU, and UUPCC have been specifically working in this area together for more than 20 years, and many lessons have been learned along the way. We are only just beginning to understand how much cultural differences affect all of us, and truly, we have done our share of “connecting” which has not only been problematic, but which has been both damaging and destructive. We have also established and been part of many beautiful new relationships which are beneficial all around. It takes time and experience to know the difference.

THERE ARE GREAT OPPORTUNITIES We have much to learn, and it is very exciting. You and your congregation can be enlightened and invigorated through international connections. There are significant differences among Unitarians and UU’s around the world – everyone is not in the UUA, nor is Unitarianism the same as our UUA traditions, all around the world. Many newly emerging U-U groups have very different religious histories and very different social and cultural realities. For some of them, daily survival is a huge challenge.

THERE ARE VIABLE AND SUSTAINABLE WAYS TO CONNECT Some of the groups most in need of support and cooperation may not be reaching out via Facebook – you may never hear about some of these places where you can make the most difference if you don’t ask. There are opportunities to meet international UU’s at conferences and events – this is a great first step. You can be work with and help support emerging UU groups around the world as part of a team or coalition, without needing to manage a relationship wholly on your own.

DO SOME HOMEWORK FIRST The Joint Working Group of the UUA International Office, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, and the UU Partner Church Council can help you learn about good ways to connect. Together, we are aiming toward global connections which achieve and model the ideals of our faith community. Please join us in aiming for these ideals and practices, by contacting us before you go forward with new international connections. Begin by reading the aims we have agreed to, listed below.

“Five Guiding Principles of UU International Engagement”

I. Our international engagement must emerge from a place of deep humility and intentionally seek relationships based on equality and mutuality.

Do: Risk for the sake of shared goals that have been established carefully.
Don’t: Assume that you or your partner have all the answers or can predict the future.

II. Our international engagement is most effective when it comprehends the abundance and variety of resources our congregations and international partners already have.

Do: Look within and without your congregation and its partners for resources that are present but perhaps not obvious.
Don’t: Establish a relationship that relies on or creates unhealthy dependency for yourself or your partner.

III. Our international engagement is most transformative when it is grounded in faithful reflection, including understanding the history of our international engagement.

Do: Explore the theological grounding of international relationship and engagement.
Don’t: Repeat common mistakes.

IV. Our international engagement is truest to our highest values when it responds with wisdom and passion to institutional oppression and injustice.

Do: Support partners as they seek to find fish for a day, fishing poles for tomorrow, and establish access to the pond for a lifetime.
Don’t: Ignore long-term justice strategies because they seem harder to achieve than short-term charitable ideas.

V. The Unitarian Universalist universe of international programs is incredibly diverse and highly decentralized. Our international engagement is most comprehensive when we understand and utilize partner organizations well.

Do: Contact an institutional UU partner organization for consultation before agreeing to a project with an international partner, especially if the international partner is UU.
Don’t: Assume a request you receive from an international partner is endorsed by the UUA, ICUU, UUPCC or other UU organization.

We look forward to working with you.
Jill, Cathy, Steve and Eric

International Council of Unitarians and Universalists:
Rev. Jill McAllister, Program Coordinator –;
Rev. Steve Dick, Executive Secretary –

UU Partner Church Council:
Cathy Cordes, Executive Director –

UUA International Office:
Rev. Eric Cherry, Director –

Appeal from Burundi Unitarians for Emergency Support

P1010585Since Sunday April 27th, the capital city of Burundi has been living in a difficult situation. Many areas of the city have seen people on the streets demonstrating against the third term of the current president.

Communes like Kanyosha, Musaga, Nyakabiga, Ngagara, Cibitoke and now Kinindo have joined the demonstrations by burning tires and pieces of wood blocking the streets to prevent people from moving from place to place and to prevent the police from coming to destabilize the demonstrators.

The behavior of the police was criticized by many because they acted against the demonstrators by using real bullets and excessive force, killing 5 people to date, arresting more than 400 people and leaving dozens wounded.

In Kanyosha, some people had to flee their homes out of fear that they will be attacked by the police or the ruling party militia. Some of our church members fled their homes, others decided to send children and women in places believed to be safer.

The church is seeking to arrange a temporarily shelter in a place where it is relatively safer for people to stay. The church will provide food, water, medicines for members in the shelter and those in other places.


The church is appealing for funds to cover these needs and the needs that will come up in the next few days and weeks.

We know we are not alone and thank you very much for your support.

(Note – Please see updates below)

Thank you.

Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence

Minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi








To donate online, please use the link below to give using your credit card or PayPal account.

If you wish to donate by check, bank transfer or other means, please email for more information.

It is expected all donations will be needed for this emergency effort, but any funds not needed for this purpose will be applied to the ICUU Global Fund for Unitarian Universalism for ICUU work in Africa.




The situation in Burundi is far from being over. Demonstrations are still going on after over a month, people on the streets are clearly tired and the problems not solved.

There is another heads of states summit tomorrow, Sunday in Dare salaam, Tanzania and people have high expectations of the decisions? Looking at what the government and what the president has announced this last week, it is likely that not much will come from Tanzania and the question is whether the demonstrations will go on or whether new strategies will be explored to confront the government.

Local and parliamentary Elections are planned next Friday and the major opposition parties have decided to boycott the process and only the ruling party will go to elections with only some satellite parties, rather very close to the party.

The government is now isolated with all the major funders gone and obliged to fund its elections. One way was to create even more deficit and take all the money designed for other ministries including funds to fight Malaria, funds for fertilizers subsidies, funds for education,… these are difficult times!
The independent electoral commission comprised by 5 members may have lost 2 of them. If this information is confirmed, things will be even harder.
We are all in the waiting mood. We need all the prayers and thoughts that we can get.

Rev. Ndagijimana Fulgence
Minister of the Unitarian Church of Burundi


KUJENGA MADARAJA: Spanning Cultures


New York became the World Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist community hub when 120 participants from 25 different countries gathered January 27-31 for the Council Meeting and Conference of the International Council of Unitarian Universalists (ICUU)).

This was first time that the biennial meeting was held in the United Sates, with the main meetings convening on the campus of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Shelter Rock in Manhasset, New York. Fifty members of the congregation volunteered to look after the participants, which included feeding our esteemed guests American cuisine during their stay; a thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings was held as well.

The conference theme was KUJENGA MADARAJA: Spanning Cultures, an exploration of how our progressive religion, known by many as Unitarianism and Unitarian Universalism, can be a language of faith spanning cultures and uniting us in love and compassion. Kujenga Madaraja is a Swahili phrase referring to “Bora kujenga madaraja kuliko kuta,” which translates to “It is better to build bridges than walls.” It is taken to mean “It is better to unite than to separate people.” Swahili is mainly spoken as a second language by many Africans, to communicate with others beyond the dialect of their respective tribes. It reminds us of the potential of our language of faith to transcend the cultures that may separate us if we can discover and master multi-cultural skills and perspectives. (more…)

KUJENGA MADARAJA – Spanning Cultures: ICUU Conference & Council Meeting



The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) will hold its biannual Conference and Council Meeting January 28-31, 2014 at the beautiful and inspiring campus of the UU congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, New York.   More than 140 Unitarians and Unitarian Universalists from twenty-five countries will gather for the event.

The program (PDF) will include theme talks, worship services, chalice circle groups and other activities, as well as opportunities for networking and getting to know sisters and brothers from around the world.

ICUU is the international network of Unitarian, Universalist and Unitarian Universalist organizations. 23 national full member groups comprise the voting members of the Council. Provisional and emerging groups represent Unitarians from more than a dozen more countries. More information about ICUU can be found at and

All are invited to the ICUU OPENING CELEBRATION AND COMMUNITY GLOBAL WORSHIP and the Welcoming Party on Tuesday evening January 28, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. at UUCSR (at no charge) and to the CLOSING CEREMONY AND PETER MAYER CONCERT at Community Church (Unitarian Universalist) in New York City on Friday evening January 31 at 7:30 pm (suggested contribution $15).  An International Minister’s Meeting will be held on the weekend following the Council meeting and Conference (February 1-2).

For additional information, please contact Rev. Steve Dick, ICUU Executive Director 


Conference Theme

ICUU Program Guide
View or download the Guide.

Kujenga Madaraja is a Swahili phrase as in “Bora kujenga madaraja kuliko kuta” which translates as “It is better to build bridges than walls” and is taken to mean “It is better to unite than to separate people.” Swahili is mainly spoken as a second language by many Africans, to communicate with others beyond the tongue of their own tribe.

It reminds us of the potential of our language of faith to transcend the cultures that may separate us if we can discover and master multi-cultural skills and perspectives.

In terms of our international progressive religious community embodied in ICUU, this theme is particularly relevant. How do we truly work together, for mutual benefit? What strengths and depths are available to us when we appreciate and understand our differences?

Intercultural and cross-cultural work requires more than good will and intentions – it requires skills, commitments, and practice. The ICUU is a truly multi-cultural organization, and our work together requires multi-cultural competency. To truly build the bridges of understanding that can support our global cooperation, we each need to learn new skills, together.

In this council meeting and conference we’ll focus on how to improve our skills and increase our effectiveness in nurturing U-Uism in many different cultures, to strengthen our presence and our impact everywhere we live. (more…)

ICUU International Ministers Gathering: February 1-2, 2014


ICUU International Ministers Gathering

February 1 and 2, 2014

Theme: Connecting As Ministers Across Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist Cultures

“We serve and work in many different countries, within many different cultures, in different economies and political settings, speaking different languages and guided by different theologies, yet beneath and beyond our differences, we share the work of being a minister in common.  What is it that we share?  How do we discover and describe our differences, especially in ways that help us learn more about ourselves, each other and ministry?”

Join with other Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist ministers from ICUU groups around the world, for 2 rare days of face-to-face meeting and learning, February 1 and 2, 2014, in New York City.  Take part in shared worship, theological reflection and dialogue about the work we do, and how we can help and support each other. We’ll consider the special roles ministers play in connecting U-U groups around the world, the skills we need to work cross-culturally, and how both our differences and our similarities can be sources of strength and insight.  We’ll aim toward understandings of how we can be accountable to each other for bringing the realities of our global movement into our daily, local work.

Ministerial colleagues from Canada, England, India, Romania, Hungary, Burundi, Uganda, the USA, and more are already planning to be there.  We hope you’ll join us!

To register, select the appropriate additional option when registering for the ICUU Conference and Council Meeting.

Participation is limited to persons recognized as ministers by ICUU Member and Emerging Groups and regarded as such by the ICUU staff and Executive Committee.

For further information or queries, please contact ICUU at execsec / at /



The 2-day ministers gathering following the ICUU council meeting and conference is planned as an opportunity for ministers who attend the CM & C to gather for further dialogue and learning, toward the aim of developing deeper relationships and new understandings of accountability to each other for the responsibilities of U-U ministry.  Our work together in this gathering will build on the activities of the previous days, including specific training in intercultural working skills with Beth Zemskey, small group meetings focusing on shared questions, and presentations and workshops about identifying and articulating the differences among us.  While it won’t be impossible for a person to profitably join in the conversation at the ministers gathering (nothing is impossible!), it might be difficult, both for the individual and for the group, to help that individual come up to speed.  For that reason we encourage individuals to seriously consider attending the entire CM & C if they are interested in being part of the ministers gathering.   We are willing to consider a very small number of individuals for only the gathering, if they have some experience with multiculturalism in the UU context and some experience in the international U-U movement.


UU Church of the Philippines welcomes ICUU member groups

The biennial Council meeting of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) began on Tuesday night in Dumaguete City, The Philippines. This is the first time in the 15 years of ICUU’s existence that the Council meeting has taken place outside of Europe or North America. And, it has been a uniquely powerful gathering for all of us. The UU church of the Philippines has been a fantastic host, and we all feel grateful for the long hours spent planning for the arrival of the international UU community.

Unitarians and UUs are here from many countries, including: Australia, Romania, Germany, Mexico, India, the Czech Republic, Uganda, Hungary, Burundi, Denmark, Norway, Kenya, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Canada, the UK, and South Africa. And, perhaps the most exciting development during Wednesday’s business meeting was the formal welcoming of two Full Member groups: The Assembly of Unitarian Christians of Burundi and the NPB – A Dutch liberal religious movement.

Each day we also gather for worship led by leaders of various member groups, and “Chalice Circles” bring diverse people together to share in theological reflection and build global friendships.

The first major speech was delivered by the Dean of the Divinity School at Silliman University – here in Dumaguete City. Dr. Muriel Montenegro shared a message entitled “Reclaiming the Erotic” which recommended the pursuit of an “embodied” religion that can confront injustice with power. Dr. Montenegro has a long association with UUism through her theological training at Union Theological School in New York City. Her ultimate message was one of resilience, and she urged UU’s to “keep on the path” of justice-seeking faith. Following her presentation small-group discussions were held to discover whether the global UU community is ready to embrace a shared voice on one or more social justice issues. This is the first time that ICUU has raised that possibility, and it will be interesting to see where that discussion leads us.

While Monday’s earthquake is very much on our minds, we are finding it to be a great joy to be together for this special gathering.



Philippines Earthquake Update

Rev. Eric Cherry, Director of the International Office at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), is currently in the Philippines attending a bi-annual Council meeting with the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU). The ICUU fosters connections between Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist groups around the world and is comprised of delegates appointed by national bodies that meet in full Council meetings every two years. The UUA is the largest member group of the ICUU.

Rev. Nihal Attanayake
Rev. Nihal Attanayake

Rev. Nihal Attanayake and I are sitting down after the opening ceremonies of the ICUU Council meeting in Dumaguette City. Just as we began writing, Nihal noticed another “aftershock” related to yesterday’s 6.9 Earthquake that was centered 70 km north of here.

It is an ironic twist that yesterday’s tragic earthquake occured just as this joyous biennial gathering was set to begin. We are fortunate that the earthquake has not prevented the ICUU event from beginning. But, it has clearly had a deep impact on many people, especially in rural areas of Negros Island.

For example, in terms of casualties, 40-50 people have lost their lives due to landslides caused by the earthquake in the Tayasan Jimalaluand, and Guihulngan areas of the island. And, bridges and roads have been damaged, interfering with rescue efforts and transportation. Food, water and other supplies are being delivered to affected communities by boat and helicopter. And our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is suffering through this difficult time.

The UU congregations on Negros Island number 28. And, we are relieved to know that none of them have been dramatically affected by the disaster. But, some of the leaders have been unable to come to Dumaguette City because of severe damage to the road system. The UU Church of the Philippines (UUCP) headquarters staff will keep in touch with leaders around the island in the days ahead to be sure that all is well in the UU congregations.

The UUCP asks the global U/U community to hold the people of Negros Island in their hearts during this difficult time.

Negros Island, in the Philippines, is outlined in red above.

Transylvanian Unitarians Celebrate the Proclamation of the Act on Religious Freedom

Please enjoy this exciting news from the Transylvania Unitarian Church:

On January 13, 2012 the Consistory of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church honors the 444th anniversary of the proclamation of the first law on freedom of belief and conscience, and religious tolerance. In January 1568, King Janos Zsigmond and his court preacher, David Ferenc had the Diet of Transylvania pass, at its session held in Torda, the Patent of Toleration, which stated:

In every place the preachers shall preach and explain the gospel each according to his understanding of it, and if the congregation like it, well; if not, no one shall compel them but they shall keep the preachers whose doctrine they approve. Therefore none of the Superintendents or others shall annoy or abuse the preachers on account of their religion, according to the previous constitutions, or allow any to be imprisoned or be punished by removal from his post on account of his teaching, for faith is the gift of God, this comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

The celebrations start in the morning in the Unitarian church of Torda with a worship service that includes a history lecture on the importance of the Act on Religious Freedom. Then, the congregation will walk over to the National Museum of Torda which was reopened in fall 2011 after many long years of restoration. The purpose of visit is to salute the new exhibition of the famous painting on the 1568 event, which was also restored over the past decade. The painting entitled The Proclamation of the Act on Religious Freedom at the 1568 Session of the Transylvanian Diet was painted by Aladár Körösfői Kriesch in 1896.

The celebrations will continue with an evening worship service in the Unitarian church of Kolozsvár, and a concert featuring the children’s choir of the Unitarian High School. The day will be closed with a reception at the residence of the Unitarian bishops, built in the 15th century, currently expecting the launching of a major restoration work.

The Consistory of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church thankfully acknowledges the contribution of the Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist international community to urging the completion of the restoration works at the museum in Torda. Among other things, it was due to the international campaign lead in 2009 and 2010 by the International Council of the Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU), the Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council (UUPCC) and the International Relations Office of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) that the renovation works were speed up, and eventually finished. This way, the painting, a symbol of the struggle of our liberal faith for the recognition of the religious freedom, became accessible again for the public.

International U-U Leaders Visit Boston

It was an honor for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) to host an International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) Tent Summit for the 5 largest U/U groups around the world in Boston from  November 6-10, 2011.  Present for the meeting were representatives from:

Canadian Unitarian Council
Jennifer Dickson (Executive Director)
Dr Gary Groot (Board President)
Ariel Hunt-Brondwin (Youth and Young Adult Programmer)

Unitarian Union of NE India
Rev Pearl Green Marbaniang (Ass’t General Secretary)
Rev Nangroi Suting (General Secretary)

Unitarian Church of Transylvania
Rev Ferenc Bálint Benczédi (Bishop)
Rev Dávid Gyerő (Counselor to the Bishop)
Rev Istvan Kovacs (Minister, Sepsiszentgyorgy)

General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches (UK)
Derek McAuley (Chief Officer)
Rev David Usher (London District Minister)
Rev Martin Whitell (Convener of the Board)

Unitarian Universalist Association (USA)
Rev Eric Cherry (International Office Director)
Rev Peter Morales (President)
Rev Vail Weller (Special Ass’t to the President for Major Gifts)

International Council of Unitarians and Universalists
Rev Steve Dick (Executive Secretary)
Rev Brian Kiely (President)
Rev Jill McAllister (Program Coordinator)

The Tent Summit gave the leaders from these groups an opportunity to talk about collaborative opportunities and priorities they hold for ICUU.  There was agreement that ICUU has an essential role in providing a voice for the global U/U community in describing”best practices” and “guidelines” for the international engagement of its member groups.  And, that ICUU’s role as a first point of contact for nascent U/U groups interested in being a part of the global U/U community is equally essential.  The ongoing work of providing consultation and training to “emerging” groups of Unitarians and Universalists was clearly equally valued by the Summit Meeting participants, and we reiterated to ICUU that we are all committed to provide expertise to ICUU as it pursues that work.  Other concepts that were discussed include supporting the establishment of regional training centers for U/U communities around the world, cataloging resources, and collaborating to provide “mentoring” relationships with emerging U/U groups.

In addition to the discussions, the leaders enjoyed having the chance to spend time getting to know each other informally, and to worship together.  On Monday, November 7, Rev. Peter Morales hosted a reception for the guests at 25 Beacon St., and formally welcomed them to the UUA.

Please enjoy a few photos from the Tent Summit!

International Presence at General Assembly 2011

The 50th anniversary of the UUA’s General Assembly was a hub of activity on the international front.

With guests from over ten countries in attendance and numerous events, workshops, and celebrations, this year’s proceedings were particularly historic.

Drawing over 4,000 attendees, this year’s annual gathering lent itself to a deep sense of interconnectedness and high visibility of our international partners.  (more…)